Legally, although perhaps not morally, justice seems to have been done in the Zimmerman case
On Facebook this morning, one of my “friends” said the jury verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman “should be a lesson to all those thugs out there.”
Stupid reactions like that are not uncommon, of course, among the right-wingers who are figuratively dancing on Trayvon Martin’s grave in the wake of the acquittal of the man who shot and killed him.
Martin was not a thug. But neither, in a strict legal sense, is Zimmerman a murderer — or even a manslaughterer.
When the jury in the Zimmerman case began its deliberations the other day, I said HERE that I would not likely second-guess whatever verdict it reached. I haven’t changed my mind on that score now that the verdict has been rendered.
I’ve read lots of analyses of the case this morning, and the one that makes the most sense to me is THIS ONE from Andrew Cohen:
To me, on its most basic level, the startling Zimmerman verdict — and the case and trial that preceded it — is above all a blunt reminder of the limitations of our justice system. Criminal trials are not searches for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They never have been. Our rules of evidence and the Bill of Rights preclude it. Our trials are instead tests of only that limited evidence a judge declares fit to be shared with jurors, who in turn are then admonished daily, hourly even, not to look beyond the corners of what they’ve seen or heard in court.
Trials like the one we’ve all just witnessed in Florida can therefore never fully answer the larger societal questions they pose. They can never act as moral surrogates to resolve the national debates they trigger. In the end, they teach only what each of us as students are predisposed to learn. They provide no closure, not to the families or anyone else, even as they represent the close of one phase of the rest of the lives of the people involved. They are tiny slivers of the truth of the matter, the perspective as narrow as if you were staring at the horizon with blinders on, capable only of seeing what was not intentionally blocked from view.
[T]he murder trial of George Zimmerman did not allow jurors to deliberate over the fairness of Florida’s outlandishly broad self-defense laws. It did not allow them debate the virtues of the state’s liberal gun laws or its evident tolerance for vigilantes (which we now politely call “neighborhood watch”). It did not permit them to delve into the racial profiling that Zimmerman may have engaged in or into the misconduct and mischief that Martin may have engaged in long before he took that fatal trip to the store for candy. These factors, these elements, part of the more complete picture of this tragedy, were off-limits to the ultimate decision-makers.
This verdict would not have occurred in every state. It might not even have occurred in any other state. But it occurred here, a tragic confluence that leaves a young man’s untimely death unrequited under state law. Don’t like it? Lobby to change Florida’s laws.
If we understand and accept these legal limitations — and perhaps only if we do — the result here makes sense. Purely as a matter of law, you could say, it makes perfect sense. Florida’s material, admissible, relevant proof against Zimmerman was not strong enough to overcome the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The eye-witnesses (and ear-witnesses) did not present a uniformly compelling case against the defendant. The police witnesses…did not help as much as they typically do. Nor was there compelling physical evidence establishing that Zimmerman had murderous intent and was not acting in self-defense.